In my last post (April 8), we took a look at how not all apus are mountains and not all mountains are apus. In this post, we will consider how both mountain apus and non-mountain apus can be sources of power for us, aiding us in our personal conscious development.
Let’s start by acknowledging that we are not Andean paqos. We are American, French, Spanish, British, Thai, Swedish, Mexican, South African practitioners of the Andean mystical tradition. The concept of apus as paqos who after their physical death inhabit mountains to serve as guides and teachers to human beings in one sense is purely cultural, a concept indigenous to the Andes. In another sense, the apus can be “translated” into a concept that is universal, as just about every tradition or culture recognizes that natural formations can be “sacred” sites. We can make a literal equivalence to the concept of Andean apus as mountain spirits and sources of power by identifying those mountains in our area or country that have historically been recognized as being special, sacred, or otherwise called out in some uncommon way. If we trace the history of the First Nation peoples in our area, we will likely find that they related to certain mountains (and other natural formations) in ways distinct from other natural features. That’s a clue that they in some way venerated that mountain (venerated as in “esteemed” rather than “worshipped”). If that is the case, then we, too, can establish a relationship with that mountain as a source of power. From the Andean perspective, there is no issue of cultural appropriation, as sources of power are available to all human beings. We use our Andean energy dynamics to access that power, rather than appropriating the rituals of the local cultural group who might be most associated with that mountain or sacred site.
What do I mean by a “source of power”? In terms of the Andean tradition, this mountain or natural formation is a source of sami, of the life-force energy. From the Andean mystical perspective, everything in nature is sami, but “sacred” sites, including apus, are considered to be collectors of sami, so they concentrate sami and can act as runa micheqs, or shepherds of human beings. We can work with them as particularly robust generators of sami and also as beings who can teach and guide us.
Let’s look briefly at mountain apus as guides for human beings. Don Juan Nuñez del Prado says, “The apus are real beings. You can talk with them. They can talk to you. They can teach you.” How do we connect with a mountain apu as a teaching or guiding spirit? The same way we develop any relationship, by establishing a personal connection with it. We introduce ourselves and allow the apu to relate back to us. Don Juan explained this to me in very direct terms: “How do you do it? You meet me and I meet you. After I meet you [and spend some time talking with you], I can say I know who Joan Parisi Wilcox is!” The Andean energy dynamics are that simple and direct. We don’t need to do elaborate rituals; we just need to be ourselves and establish a personal ayni relationship with the spirit beings, including with apus.
From the fourth level of practice, however, the apus are more than literal mountain spirit beings. An apu can be any source of power—a temple or sanctuary, or a statue or other physical symbol of importance in the development of a place, people, and culture. We are always absorbing sami, and we can “charge” ourselves and increase our well-being by taking in the sami that is especially concentrated through this form of “apu.” Taking in this concentrated sami helps us to release our hucha (heavy energy) more quickly, and it strengthens and invigorates us. The more sami-filled we are, the more easily we can progress up the qanchispatañan, the stairway of the seven stages or levels of human conscious development. This less literal kind of apu can serve as an engine of power for our personal development. Remember, the fourth-level approach to practicing the tradition is based on the view that our poq’po, our energy body or energy bubble, is more than energy—it is an information field that can be equated to our psyches, our minds. Our energy work is all about restructuring ourselves, improving ourselves, stepping up the qanchispatañan of consciousness.
Don Ivan Nuñez del Prado beautifully explains the more abstract way we can think about what we are doing when we connect with either an actual apu or with the less literal form, such as a sacred site or other non-mountain structure (or even a person). “[When I think] of the relationship between us and the earth, with places of power and so on—for me, this is your projection, as those places are going to stimulate some part of your psyche. They will be symbols, many times archetypal structures outside the self that represent the energies projected from inside yourself. . . . You are working with those power places . . . but you are actually dealing with your inner world and energy. It’s like a big despacho—the world is like a big despacho—and you are relating with the parts and adjusting it, and these energies are going to organize the self.”
One way we work this outer source of sami as fuel for our inner development is to relate first to the “apus” of the place where we live, and then move from the local to the regional to the national, expanding our range energetically and, we hope, developing ourselves in greater ways as we do. So, we would start by working with an “apu” that is an important carrier of the information and energy of the place where we live. This “apu” is our energetic ancestor, not in the sense of our personal bloodline ancestors, but as one of the ancestors of the place we find ourselves at currently, of our physical location on the back of Mother Earth. These “apus” are geographical and cultural ancestors, because they are creators of the poq’po—the energy bubble—of the place where we reside. We might not like the place we live right now; it might not feel like home. This emotional discomfort may have its roots in an energetic disconnect. So, we can shift that emotional state by using our will and intention to establish an ayni relationship with the bubble of that place. We can take action by working with one or more of these local “apus,” who can help us feel at home right where we are, more fully and deeply grounded with that patch of Pachamama. The connection creates an inner equilibrium so that we can work energetically without distraction or discomfort. Once we connect with the “apu” of our town, we can then work outward, expanding the energy bubbles (“apus”) we work with to our state or province and then to our country. By forming ayni relationships with these sources of power, we can enlarge our karpay (how much of our potential we are actually accessing), which helps us progress up the qanchispatañan.
Don Ivan explains the concept of the apus as energetic ancestors in this way: “You need to build a healthy relationship with the ancestors. We all need to do that. So, if you are related with the apus at different spheres and levels, you are relating with the actual people who built that bubble as an energy field. You need to have a healthy relationship with the ones who established the foundations of the bubble where you live. That is the ayni relationship with your ancestors. If you develop a healthy ayni relationship—and you know ayni is about giving and receiving—you are going to have something to offer and you are going to get something from them.”
At this more abstract level of “apu,” what is the source or engine of power? Anything that represents and connects you to the originating imprinted information and energy field. In your town, maybe there is a statue of the founder. That statue would be your “apu,” the doorway through which you connect with the founder as a source of power. (Doing research is a good idea, because maybe the founder of your town was more hucha-filled than sami-filled. If that’s the case, you can shift to working with a different local “apu.”) Once you have established a relationship with the ayllu (local) “apu,” you can then reach out and access a laqta (regional) “apu,” which would be something or someone venerated in your state or province. Finally, you can connect with a suyu (national) “apu.” We can connect with people of the past because when human beings die, their spirit returns to the hanaq pacha but their soul (experience and knowledge as a human being) is imprinted in the Earth. Through that information imprint, we can access people from the past and their wisdom.
Don Juan explains this concept of working an increasingly larger scale of “ancestor apus” as follows: “If you were [born or currently live in] in Texas, who can be your [llaqta] apu? It could be Davy Crockett! Who could be your suyu apu? Thomas Jefferson. Or John Adams or any of the founding fathers of the nation. This is the kind of ancestor we work with. We can relate with a whole scale of people who [have done] something important in your tradition; this is relating with your ancestors in the Andean way. You don’t try to use the apu structure literally, as the [physical] mountains of North America. If you follow don Benito and how Manuel Pinta was made an apu, it means every apu is an expression of the development of the tradition [the energy of the people within the tradition who helped develop it]. In that way, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are suyu apus. They each have a character that can teach you something. Every apu has a character: Washington was a general, Jefferson was a philosopher. This is the way you work. Your [culture] didn’t develop a system like the apus [as mountain spirits] in the US. But you can make a translation. Apu Ausangate can be seen as Thomas Jefferson! The source of power can be Monticello. Washington can be your apu, and the Washington monument a source of power. You can connect with them [each] as an apu. You need to translate, but every one of them has a certain kind of property [that can teach and guide you].”
Following this path of translation—which focuses not on the literal outer representation of an “apu” but on the energy exchanges we can make with it as a source of sami and power for our personal development—just about anything that has meaning for you can be your “apu.” From a small-town statute to a national symbol to an international wonder such as Stonehenge or the Giza Pyramid. We start local, at the ayllu level, with an apu that helps us become grounded and connected right where we are, comfortable and at home. This is essential for our cultivating the inner state by which we can then consciously develop ourselves. Then we work up to greater sources of power. At the llaqta level, we are being guided by a power source of our state or region. Then we will be ready to relate to a suyu apu, a repository of power for our country and our larger culture. Finally, if we have advanced our development, we may be able to cultivate an ayni relationship with a teqse apu, a universal apu. Traditionally, these are the nature “apus” of the Sun, Moon, Wind, Waters, and Earth. But we can also take as our teqse apu a person who has lived with a capacity for enormous personal power or from great wisdom (called hamuta in Quechua) and so has influenced the development of all of humanity. A few examples of people of the stature of teqse “apus” are Jesus Christ, Siddhartha Gautama, Mohammed, the Dali Lama, Amelia Earhart, Isaac Newton, Madame Curie, Albert Einstein, and Mother Theresa. Working with mountain apus is one form of walking a path of personal development, and when we get beyond seeing the apus (or the female equivalent, the ñust’as) as literal mountains only, then our work with these sources of power goes deeper and becomes richer.